Mindfulness and Early Buddhism

A study on Transcultural Mindfulness (TM)

“Mindfulness” is a critical term in contemporary psychology and medicine. The Western psychological definitions of mindfulness and the practical applications in diverse clinical settings are built on the ancient Indian, particularly Buddhist, ideas on mindfulness meditation. The probably earliest systematically developed psychological understanding of Buddhist mindfulness (Pāli sati, Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit smṛti) can be found in the indigenous Buddhist psychology (BP) of the Pāli canon. The concept of sati is the foundation for the current Western clinical developments and discourses.

Despite its contemporary importance in the clinical field, the main contributors to clinical mindfulness acknowledge that “… the field of mindfulness-based applications is in its infancy and there is great promise that it will continue to yield new insights and avenues for research as it develops in multiple directions.” The need for constant interdisciplinary “inquiry, translation, renewal, and dialogue” is emphasised.

TM is a dialogical endeavour with the goal to analyse the broader cultural framework that underlies the understanding of human experience and behaviour within the specific historical and cultural prerequisites of the involved Buddhist and Western systems. It facilitates the reflection on the epistemologies of psychological theories and practices from different cultural backgrounds. This requires translational work on the concept of mindfulness, “from its philosophical ancestors in classical writings … into understandable psychological idiom.”

To facilitate new comparative psychological work in the field of mindfulness it is necessary to develop further psychological theories and models on mindfulness in BP. It is this translational work of indigenous thought into contemporary psychological idiom that is also necessary for the development of a more universal and global contemporary psychology, to which TM will substantially contribute. TM will thus be of great use for both Western clinical mindfulness practitioners and cross-cultural scientists that are interested in the reception of indigenous Asian psychologies in the West.

Budget for the project (including researcher salary, overheads, fieldwork costs, and dissemination of research) is 190,000 pounds.  (Detailed breakdown available upon request).